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At All Costs?

It may look like a deal, but calculate the true cost to own first.

Before buying your next business vehicle, check out how much it costs to own and operate. Don't just calculate fuel economy--taking into account the true cost to own, or TCO, is the smartest way to budget transportation over the long run. Ongoing expenses include maintenance, fuel, repairs, insurance, financing, depreciation, and state taxes and/or fees.

Several websites have tools to calculate the TCO for vehicles. The most comprehensive and easiest to navigate is, where the costs of ownership for models in every class of car and truck are listed (you'll need to add your ZIP code). provides a breakdown of major operating costs; the vehicle's true market value price, including options, delivery charges and taxes; and links for comparisons with similar vehicles.

Another site,, ranks the top 10 2005 cars and trucks in several categories, including lowest ownership and operating costs, and highest retained value. The company also publishes buyer guides.

For fleet owners, offers a fee-based comparative Fleet Cost Analysis service, as well as The Runzheimer Plan of Vehicle Standard Costs, which is used to reimburse company drivers of employee-provided business vehicles.

Editor and consultant Jill Amadio has been reporting on the automotive industry for 26 years.

This story appears in the July 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »